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# The current Mega Millions jackpot is now \$ 1.6 billion – where is the whole lottery win going?

Liberty Vittert is Visiting Professor of Statistics at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Mega Millions jackpot pulled on October 23 has risen to \$ 1.6 billion. Bigger and bigger jackpots should mean more government taxpayer money on public services like education. But that does not happen. When the lotteries began in the US in the mid-20th century, they were sold to states to help the American public . So, what's really going on?

First let's look at how the lottery jackpots got so big. This particular jackpot started at \$ 40 million in July, and week after week no one drew the winning numbers, but the tickets are always bought.

You also have the chance to win the biggest Mega Millions jackpot of all time by simply buying a \$ 2 ticket. Your chances, however, are pretty low. With a probability of 1

: 300 million selecting the matching numbers, you are killed three times more frequently by a vending machine. A simpler way to get your chances right: it's like throwing a coin 30 times in a row and getting heads.

About half of Americans play the lottery today, compared with nearly 70 percent in the 1980s. This means that the lottery needs to receive more money from fewer people – a worrying trend for lottery runners.

Mega Millions decided to reduce each person's odds to make the jackpots bigger. Before 2017, players would choose five numbers between 1 and 75 and then a number between 1 and 15. Now each player chooses five numbers between 1 and 70 and then a number between 1 and 25. This increases your chances of reaching five numbers and you Get some sort of prize while decreasing your chances on the entire Shebang. In addition, the ticket price has doubled.

Apparently, as the jackpot gets bigger, more people are ready to buy a ticket. The jackpots are getting bigger and people are spending more money – according to a survey by the online marketplace LENDedu, an average of \$ 223 per year.

Mega Millions profits are spread across 46 lottery jurisdictions – 44 states, DC and the US Virgin Islands. In total, 27 states state some or all lottery revenues for education. In Washington DC, the lottery dollars go into a general fund; In Colorado, the funds are dedicated to environmental protection. and in Kansas, part of the money is spent on youth detention facilities.

The lottery was promoted to provide more money for training – but most state legislators have not used the money as additional funding. Instead, they use the lottery ticket to pay the education budget and spend the money that would have been spent on education if there were no lottery budget for other things. As a result, public schools rarely receive a budget boost .

An April study by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research showed that many states – including California, Florida and Michigan – are simply replacing lottery revenues for normal appropriations. As of 2016, North Carolina devoted a smaller portion of its total budget to education than before the lottery began.

With states like New York earning \$ 3.3 billion from the lottery in 2016, that's a damn big bait and change.

That does not necessarily mean that it's time to cancel the lottery. But it raises the question: Is Lottering a good thing for a state? It finances some government services, but it is not always clear what. And the damage of gambling addiction has to be considered somehow.

I am currently buying a ticket for this Mega Millions Jackpot. I mean, someone has to win.